When Joyce saw a video of a tiny tabby and white kitten with radial hypoplasia (RH) — which was shared by Josh the Furrtographer, a photographer who specializes in taking pictures of cats and dogs — she was immediately drawn to the adorably different kitty. Shortly after the RH kitten was born in April 2014, she was taken to a veterinary clinic in Northern California to be euthanized. Thankfully, one of the vet techs at the animal hospital, Cheryl, refused to put the kitten down, realizing that aside from having the abnormally short and twisted forelegs associated with radial hypoplasia, the young cat was in good health.
After saving the RH kitten from euthanasia, Cheryl contacted Saving Grace Rescue Inc., an animal rescue in San Francisco that specializes in assisting cats with special needs. Saving Grace agreed to help the kitten, whom they named Kanga Roo, find her forever home, creating the video which Joyce saw on Facebook in May 2014. “The first time I heard Kanga’s meow,” remembers Joyce, “I turned to my husband and said ‘I really want this baby.'”
Joyce and her husband Christian, who live in Daly City, California, had never even met a special needs cat before seeing the video of the tiny RH kitty, but the couple was confident they were up to the challenge of caring for Kanga Roo. “I felt a strong connection to her after watching a video of her,” says Joyce, prompting her and her husband to arrange a meeting with Kanga Roo. Joyce’s intuition was correct, and on June 28, 2014, she and Christian adopted Kanga Roo from Saving Grace.
While Joyce and Christian believed Kanga Roo was meant to be a part of their family, they’d never had a cat with radial hypoplasia before, so they weren’t entirely sure what to expect. However, the California couple was pleasantly surprised, and Kanga Roo quickly proved she didn’t need a lot of help or special accommodations. “We thought she would have trouble going up and down our stairs, but she doesn’t,” explains Joyce. “We haven’t had any challenges with her.”
Aside from placing cushions on the floor near the couch to give Kanga Roo a soft place to land when she jumps down, Joyce hasn’t had to make many adjustments for her first special needs cat. Before Kanga Roo joined her family, Joyce thought providing medical care for a cat with radial hypoplasia might be more expensive than the cost of caring for the average kitty, something she and her husband took into consideration before finalizing the adoption. However, this turned out to be a misconception — “Kanga is proving us wrong,” says Joyce.
While Joyce and her husband Christian thought Kanga Roo might need more attention than the average kitty, this cat with radial hypoplasia has actually turned out to be quite the caregiver. After adopting the first special needs cat they ever met, this couple from Daly City started fostering special needs kittens for Saving Grace, and Kanga Roo has become something of a surrogate mother. “She is my helper in raising fosters,” says Joyce. “We are currently fostering three kitties and she cuddles them and gives them baths.”
In fact, in the three years she’s been living with Joyce and her husband, Kanga Roo has helped them raise 23 foster kittens, allowing this special needs cat to give back to the rescue that saved her life. In addition to caring for the tiny kittens who come into her home — “She accepts all animals,” says Joyce — Kanga Roo loves playing with her brother Hector, the first cat Joyce and Christian fostered for Saving Grace.
Today, Joyce and her husband, who had no experience with special needs cats when they first saw a video of Kanga Roo back in 2014, now have a house filled with adorably different animals. Over the last three years, the couple has provided a temporary home to all sorts of special needs animals, but Joyce is confident all cats are pretty much the same, even kitties who have radial hypoplasia like Kanga Roo or cerebral hypoplasia like two of her current foster kittens. “They are not different from any other regular cats,” says Joyce. “They are very loving and can do anything and everything.”
While Kanga Roo might not have trouble getting around and doing everything she wants to do, this RH kitty is still very unique. Time and time again, Kanga Roo welcomes new kittens into her home and does her best to love and care them, regardless of whether they wobble when they walk or have twisted forelegs just like her, demonstrating a seemingly endless amount of tolerance, patience, and love. “When I think of Kanga Roo,” says Joyce, “I often wonder why people can’t be like her.”
To learn more about this remarkable cat, you can follow Kanga Roo on Instagram.